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Growth hacks

I absolutely hate the term "growth hack."

In case you aren't familiar, this catch-all phrase lumps together marketing, engineering, and data analysis. In theory, it supposedly requires a deep understanding of each discipline.

Unfortunately, in practice, it's usually a quick fix or a marketing cheat code that focuses on a short-term problem.

For example, if your goal is to gain more followers on a social media platform, growth hacks make this process easier by casting a broad net and essentially spamming people.

The biggest issue I have with this concept is the word "hack". It implies a silver bullet that will take the work out of marketing.

Instead of wasting time on growth hacks, marketers should be spending time on the only activity that actually matters - growing a community by providing value.

You can keep your growth hacks. I'd rather put in the time to create meaningful connections.

Cut through the noise

There's a lot of noise online.

Companies trying to sell you something, writers promoting their new books, people sharing all of their accomplishments. It can be a little overwhelming.

On one hand, I completely understand. After all, I've been working for myself for about a decade and I've learned that if you want to be heard, you have to speak up.

At the same time, I can't help but notice an overall lack of awareness.

These companies aren't acknowledging their customers as people. These writers aren't addressing how their book will help make your life better. And these people are spending too much time speaking and not enough listening.

Over the years, I've learned that trying to be everywhere at once isn't a strategy - it's quite the opposite. It shows that you have no idea who your audience is and, even if you did know, you aren't patient enough to learn about them as individual people.

We need to stop viewing the people in our audience as numbers, conversion rates, and potential sales and start seeing for what they really are - humans. 

Build a community

I've been thinking a lot about building a community online.

Since I work for myself, I'm always focused on sharing my work with others. Some call this "self-promotion" while others call it "content marketing."

Do you want to know what I call it?

Building a community.

For me, the difference is the intent.

These days, the internet allows you to do some amazing things:

• Work for yourself from wherever you want
• Self-publish an entire book
• Teach others outside of a classroom
• Connect with people from all over the world

Unfortunately, it can also make it much easier to spam people without listening to what they want.

When I first started writing, I shared my blog posts everywhere. I'm ashamed to admit this even included Tinder (back when I was single).

Three years later, my process has become a little more refined.

Even though I'm always focused on being more helpful to others, I'd like to think this job is never finished. When sharing work online, you can always listen more, pay closer attention, and provide even more value to your readers and viewers.

As I start my next phase of building a community, I'm going to focus even more on quality over quantity.

I suggest you do the same.



Position yourself for success

Whether you are a freelancer or starting a company with others, effective branding and positioning can make all of the difference.

When I first started freelancing about a decade ago, all I knew is that I wanted to help create brands. That's it.

As you can guess, this lack of focus made it hard to market myself to others.

It wasn't until I asked myself the following questions that I started to notice a tangible difference:

1. Who are you? I'm a freelance designer, writer, and founder.
2. What do you do? I build brands, blogs, and businesses.
3. Who is your ideal client? I work with students, nine-to-fivers, and other freelancers.
4. What value are you create for them? I help them take their ideas from zero to one as quickly as possible.

Now, you can go a lot deeper and get much more specific with your target audience, but this is a great place to start if you feel stuck. These answers will inform everything from your branding to the marketing copy on your website.


The two goals of marketing

It's no secret that marketers ruin everything.

Just look at email, Facebook, and even newer apps like Snapchat.

At the end of the day, marketers have two main goals:

1. Driving sales
2. Building relationships

If you hate the term "marketing," I would guess you've run into one too many marketers who are focused on goal number one. I don't blame you. There too many marketers out there who are impatient, focusing only on short-term results.

If you ask me, the best marketers put relationships first.

Whether you are marketing yourself or another company, remember: there is already enough noise out there. Instead of being the loudest in the room, try being the most helpful.